$15.3 million verdict in St. Landry tops all civil jury decisions in Louisiana

Alejandro de los Rios Dec. 21, 2010, 7:16am

A $15.3 million verdict in St. Landry Parish in July over a gas explosion topped all December 2010 Louisiana jury verdicts, according to the Louisiana Jury Verdict Reporter, which tracks verdicts rendered in the state.

The St. Landry case was more than twice as much as the next biggest plaintiff verdict in which a Calcasieu Parish jury awarded $7.5 million in a wrongful death suit.

The third-largest plaintiff verdict came out of federal court of the Western District of Lousiana, where an oil rig worker was awarded just over $4.09 million for his employer's maritime negligence.

The St. Landry jury found that Centerpoint Energy and Carle Jones Sr. were liable for an explosion caused after Centerpoint cut off gas to Jones' home, but didn't secure it enough to prevent Jones from breaking through the lock and establishing an illegal connection. The rigged setup caused gas to leak into the home, which was ignited when another resident lit a cigarette in the middle of the night.

Centerpoint was found liable because the lock used to cut off the gas was made from cheap plastic that took little effort to remove. The jury deliberated for three hours before assigning equal fault to Centerpoint and Jones for the explosion. The defendants have appealed.

Of the 30 verdicts listed in the Reporter's December edition, verdicts for plaintiffs and defense were equally split. Two maritime negligence suits resulted in a combined $4.7 million in damages awarded; a $3.5 million verdict came in St. Mary's Parish while a $1.2 million verdict came in the federal court of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Five verdicts came in automobile negligence claims, with three verdicts going to plaintiffs for just under $700,000 combined. The smallest jury award came in a premises liability suit in which a woman in Ouachita Parish was awarded $10,121 when a box fell and injured her foot while she was shopping at Target.

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